Thursday, September 30, 2004

Would you rather...

Sure, I could be watching the presidential debate right now. I'm certain to be out of the loop at the water fountain tomorrow. Or I could go have a couple drinks with my friends right now and bask in the euphoria of a sudden leap of success in my job search (it really is who you know) and read about the debate online in class tomorrow. (I'll be ready for that trip to the water fountain, dammit.)

As usual, alcoholism wins out. Plus I've gotta do something to avoid finishing that (1 week overdue) paper, and drinking beats the hell out of watching Tweedle Dum and Tweedle W talk about, like, important issues may or may not affect my future... and stuff (see above paragraph).


Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Preparing for the future

It's amazing how lazy you become when you actually have things to do. It's as if the active avoidance of important tasks is exhausting in and of itself. I didn't do much yesterday, and went to bed relatively early, but it seemed to take such an effort to drag myself out of bed at noon today. (That work on my overdue paper, incidentally, did not get done.) In fact, the only reason I showered at all was because of a job search presentation being put on for students in my program by a former HR staffer at Leo Burnett, Leo Burnett being the dream job company in my head right now (and for the past year or so).

The presentation was ok; I did learn a few helpful things, but since the presentation was titled "Confessions of a Recruiting Director" and one of my best friends also happens to be a former recruiter, I didn't hear anything too original. (Not that 'original' could be aptly applied to any job search advice anyway... at least not effective job search advice. I'm sure there are a few out there who have given rather novel suggestions to their unemployed friends about how green hair will make you stand out, or to be prepared for the question "So if you were a kind of fruit, which would you be?" with a sample of your hypothetical answer. (Snacking is optional. I'm not sure how that would fit with the metaphor, anyway.)) Anyway, while the guy was somewhat helpful, he clearly missed his calling in show business. Guess that's why he went into advertising instead, which does cast some doubt on how well I'll get along with people in that industry. Anyway, at the end I went up and asked for his take on the likelihood of my being hired as an account planner (dream job, doesn't matter which agency...I really just like Burnett's location) upon graduation from my program. Apparently my chances are from slim to what the fuck are you on, and I was informed that I'd probably have to start out in account management, at an entry-level job (and pay... cringe). Nothing I haven't heard before, but with the reality a bit closer and other potential job opportunities that are not entry-level, it's moved from 'somewhat disconcerting' to 'seriously, what the fuck am I on?'.

I'll show them, though. I'm wearing my "I'm being exploited by an ad agency" t-shirt to bed. How do ya like me now?

Interview tips and tricks

Sure, they're written by a deranged law student, but I'm sure they're applicable in the marketing sphere as well. Hell, he started out in advertising, so maybe if I follow these, someday I'll be lucky enough to become disillusioned and quit my job to go to law school too!

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

No really

Despite my failure to report it, I am in fact back in Chicago (and enjoying the fruits of my shopping labors) and doing lots of stuff, plenty of it blog-worthy. I'm embarking on my final quarter of grad school and, unfortunately, a job search as well; I'm travelling around, I'm hanging out with friends, I'm going to concerts and Cubs games, I'm reading. Lots of stuff. And I don't think it's that much less interesting than the stuff I read on my friends' blogs (though there is the risk of a slight bias there). I just don't think I've mastered the short entry; they all have to be long, and thus the prospect of posting seems a lot more daunting than it should and so I don't very often. Anyway, I hope to try to change that, and write more about stuff as it happens than just when it happens and I happen to be in the mood.

"That dog was fucking nuts."

When life gets ya down, go do something interesting. If that sounds like too much work, then just just go hang around someone who can't help but be interesting. For example, a guy who goes around reading (aloud) a short story so vividly sickening that it has caused no fewer than 64 people to pass out simply by listening to it. Number 64 was sitting a few rows in front of me. And he didn't even make it to the really bad part.

Chuck Pahlaniuk did a reading of his short story Guts at the Chicago Public Library tonight, and I was fortunate enough to be able to go. There were between six and seven hundred people there, some four hundred who were smart enough to come early and get seats in the auditorium and a few hundred more (*ahem*) who were relegated to overflow rooms where we watched a simulcast of what was going on in the auditorium. (Silver lining: got a much better look at Chuck--I'm not going to type his last name, it's too damn long--trying to drink, twice, from a bottle whose cap he'd forgotten to remove.) We didn't get to ask questions, but as stated above, the reading didn't lose anything by not taking place in the same room. Refer to wuss in above paragraph who fainted. He was actually the only one to do so at this reading, from what I was able to gather.

Chuck prefaced his reading with a couple of anecdotes: he said how his writing was frequently described as dark, and which he claimed was simply the result of being observant. He doesn't make this shit up (a point he perhaps wants to drive home with his most recent publication of Stranger than Fiction). He proceeded to relate a couple of anecdotes about people using cell phones: in one he overhears a guy at Penn Station in New York telling his wife how he was robbed the night before and is asking if they know anyone in the city who can lend him $40 to take the train back to Scarsdale; the man is offered the money he needs by an old lady sitting nearby, and then when Chuck comes back a half hour later, the guy is still there, having the same conversation in front of a whole new group of people. It's little stories like that that tie together and eventually when he has more cell phone stories maybe he'll actually be able to make something out of it. He said that every time he got on a plane, he prayed to God for it not to crash, because he was the only one on this earth who knew these three really funny masturbation stories.

'Funny' may be a stretch, but those stories are the substance of Guts. They earned him 31 written complaints at the Barnes and Noble in Austin where he did a reading on Friday. (Apparently that's some kind of record.) I'm not going to ruin it for you here, since the telling is really what makes it so wrenching, but seriously, go find the March issue of Playboy or buy Haunting when it's published in June. I will forget everything about this reading (which is why I'm writing it down now) except for that short story (from which the title of this post is quoted, by the way... it's too horribly funny not to write down. And no, the dog was not involved in any masturbation. Get your mind out of the gutter, these stories are much worse than that.)

After the reading came the Q&A. Very well-run: there were a few people who had gotten passwords (I think they were participants in a writing workshop) to lead off the questioning, and to everyone who asked a question, Chuck gave a fake severed limb. When he ran out of limbs, question time was over, but we learned a lot before that happened. Like that all of his books except for Lullabye have been optioned and are on their way to becoming movies. Choke will be made by the same people who did Requiem for a Dream. Jessica Beal will star in Invisible Monsters. Survivor was dropped by Fox after 9/11 but is apparently on the verge of being picked up by some WB hotshots. Chuck's favorite reading material is short stories, and favorite authors are Amy Hemple and Bret Ellis, among others (those were the ones I remembered ten minutes after he went through the list). Favorite movies fall into two categories: dark (surprise surprise) 70's stuff that I'd never heard of and then movies like Dude Where's My Car, A Night at the Roxbury and Romy and Michele's High School Reunion; he likes the latter category because all this drama is happening to and around these characters and they're completely oblivious to it.

Chuck offered a lot of other little tidbits as well. Like the concept of 'heart authority': either you get people to listen to you because you're wise or because you were able to break their heart. He believes in writing for your own enjoyment because that's the only way it'll ever be honest. It should never be tempered by fear, like being afraid that others won't like it or that your mom will read it or that you'll have to stand up in public and read it aloud.

Chuck was completely honest in all of his answers (he related one horrible story about a public appearance he did in San Diego that almost turned him off it entirely), had a great sense of humor and seemed to enjoy himself thoroughly. And he was so nice. You wouldn't expect the author of something like Fight Club or Lullabye to be so nice. I mean, he brought presents for his audience. He promised that he'd be the last to leave the auditorium. He posed for pictures with fans--not just sitting there and smiling into the camera, but actually taking part in poses they asked of him, like one where he pretended to play tug-of-war over a girl with her boyfriend. He signed everything people brought him: multiple copies of books, Fight Club dvd covers, bookmarks, posters. And the thing that impressed me most of all was that he didn't just do this in the beginning; he stayed nice the entire time. He signed my new copy of Choke and added the message "A fellow pervert!!" and was perfectly happy to sign my ticket, too (I was number 563 in the signing line).

I guess I'm just that much more impressed by people who go out of their way to be nice when their position is such that the same old thing will still exceed our expectations. It's a sad comment on the world, but we have no shortage of those. There aren't too many like Chuck Pahlaniuk. He's a great guy, if I've ever met one.

Friday, September 10, 2004

The days are just packed

The shopping spree continued today, but whether due to temporary insanity or the good luck of finding stuff I actually liked, I met with far more success (my wallet would disagree with my definition of success, but I got a new one of those today, too, and I’m gonna make it my bitch). I’m now in possession of a wardrobe sufficiently equipped for fall… for a few days, anyway. A couple of the larger expenditures got me highlights in my hair (I’m a first-timer, so that’s all very new and exciting for me) and a bunch of makeup and brushes from MAC. All I needed was a mani-pedi and some new underwear to complete my unintentional makeover… all in good time.

One disturbing thing (well, on top of this newfound girliness; a part of me is rolling its eyes and making loud sighs at the highlights and increasing number of pink items in my wardrobe): amongst the articles of clothing purchased this afternoon is one of those short, ruffley skirts, a la Paris Hilton. (The part of me raising its eyebrow at the highlights is laughing and pointing at this skirt.) I cannot now explain why I purchased it, especially when one considers that I live in bloody Chicago, where the weather will force me into pants sometime next week. These skirts are nothing short of ridiculous, but I was overwhelmed by everybody-else-is-doing-it-ness and the $12 price tag.

The thing that bothers me most about the fact that I actually paid money for this skirt (the wearing of which makes me feel like I raided the closet of a 14 year-old) is that lots of other women my age did too. Older, even. And as much as people complain about how young girls are being forced to look like, well, teenagers, I think an equally alarming trend is that of supposedly mature adults also trying to look like teenagers. (And here I’m an avid Nip/Tuck fan and managed to miss the point until now. Guess I was too busy staring at Christian Troy.)

Uh, I totally made up that skirt purchase thing… really… I only said it to, um, make a point, or something. Yeah. You don't think I'd actually buy something like that, do you?

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Getting cultured in LA

No, not really. It’s a funny concept though, isn’t it?

Apologies for this most recent silence, I’m on vacation. (I’m sure all three of you have noted that I’ve attributed other silences to being in school and having to do work. To which my reply is: yeah, so?) So I’m enjoying a few days back home in sunny California, most of which have been pretty damned busy, believe it or not. Concerts, beaches and ballgames, oh my! I just got back from a road trip up to San Francisco with a friend of mine, where we did all the touristy stuff that could reasonably fit into two and a half days: Giants game, Alcatraz, Napa, cable cars, Jack London Square, Berkeley, Chinatown, and Fisherman’s Wharf, all capped off with a drive down Highway 1 back to LA. I get tired just thinking about it. Then again it is almost 1 am, and thinking itself is a bit more tiring than usual.

Today was my first day back in LA sans friend, a.k.a. my actual first day of vacation: when friends are around you have to put on a whole song and dance about all the great stuff there is to see and do, most of which is only hearsay since you haven’t actually been to any of these cool places; I mean, you live here, you could go anytime you want. So with all these great museums and beaches in close proximity, I went… to the dentist.

I actually did do some of the good stuff there is to do here (LA can be a fun city for people not in the entertainment industry, contrary to popular belief): I did a little bit of shopping on Melrose in hopes of finding a cute faux Kate Spade bag to replace the one that’s falling apart. I was unsuccessful, but the trip was educational; dear God, someone let Barbie determine the hot color for fall: pink is everywhere.

The other “I’m back home” treat was free dinner with my parents and a trip to the theater, where I saw Little Shop of Horrors with my mom. Best things about the musical: sitting in the Boystown section of the theater, and the look of glee on my dad’s face at being able to get out of going. Worst things: the ending, and the fact that the talking plant wasn’t played by Isaac Hayes. All in all it’s a weird premise, but the Ray Bradbury-like plot didn’t match the main characters who had to play it. In fact, I thought the leads were easily outshone by the supporting cast, who were the source of almost all the humor. The starring role was played by Anthony Rapp, who has a diverse resume: in addition to a lot of theatrical stuff (much in collaboration with his brother), he was the kid’s friend in Adventures in Babysitting, the asshole in School Ties, and the freak in Road Trip. His mother must be stage mom extraordinaire. I wasn’t expecting to see any familiar names in the program, and this guy plays such random parts that I uttered a very strongly felt "Oh, that guy!"

Tomorrow: my first foray into the world of highlights. Stay tuned.

Whole27: Seven (Eight?) Months Later

Breakfast this morning was cinnamon rolls. In fairness, I'm sick right now with something resembling that monster flu--hopefully it...